Sunday, April 17, 2011

A 360 Degree Canvas

On a very warm and lovely morning a few days ago I decided that I wanted to explore BLM land close to the house, and this time I wanted to head into the hills.
Curious to see how well I could bike, curious to see what my climbing ability was, and curious to see what was "up there'.
What was up in the hills.
What was up over the hills.
Whether or not I really could see forever.
After leaving the house, riding for only a couple of minutes along our dirt and gravel road and then riding down a short dirt path that led directly to BLM land I quickly found an entire world of paths and trails and sage as far as the eye could see in front of me.
And then I heard them.
I looked to my left and saw a herd of antelope running at full speed.
They quickly ran through the field of sage bushes, across the trail I was biking on and continued running for at least another 200 yards before finally coming to a rest.
After unclipping from my bike, putting down one foot and clamoring for my camera while they were still in a full run, I looked to see if they were being followed by some type of predator before taking pictures of them.
I could see nothing.
Antelope in the field in these first two pictures...........
I knew nothing about this BLM land and played it conservative in my initial explorings by staying on only one trail.
It was not a difficult trail by the standards of my mountain biking of a lifetime ago.
But it was sandy and for the entire mile and a half I found myself on a gradual and continual incline.
Not overly strenuous, but I was definitely not in great shape.
I hate being reminded of that every time I go out.
They say that your body is shaped by the stresses you place on it.  
Gymnasts have different bodies from weight lifters who have different bodies from marathoners who have different bodies from adventure racers who have different bodies from swimmers who have...
I look at myself now in the mirror and realize that my body looks like one that has not been stressed regularly for far too long.
So really it looks foreign to me.
My old POS car in Juneau did not have a CD player so I did not listen to the music that I like to listen to.
My workouts were haphazard and irregular in Juneau when I had spent years focusing on working out.
My long-standing ability to work hard while I was at work and then forget about it when I was home was severely compromised in Juneau.
And so one month after arriving in Cody, and six weeks after leaving Juneau I am working on remembering who I used to be...........

Our elderly neighbor had told us that there was a impromptu shooting range somewhere up in the hills.
And after riding a long slow uphill grind (sucking wind but loving the effort the entire time) I found it.
I resolved to tell my Mountain Boy where it was so he (and we) could shoot here.........
The view behind me after I dropped my bike next to the shooting ranger..........
After stopping for a few moments to inspect the targets I continued to ride further into the hills until I came to an unexpected canyon..........
 I stopped for a few moments at the entrance to the canyon, considering my options and trying to decide what I should do next.
I could not see beyond a small rise so was not certain that there was even any more trail up ahead.
I dropped my bike for the second time in only 5 minutes, walked up and over the rise intending to scope the place out.
I had a feeling that the trail that I had been on almost since I had left the house had come to an end, and sure enough it had.  I was in a box canyon with no outlets. 
For a few moments I considered going back for my bike, turning back and picking up another trail.
There were plenty of trails to choose from.........
A couple of years ago I walked on a trail with a colleague of mine down in Tennessee.
LC was with us and we all had a great time wandering, talking, laughing and generally being goof-balls on a light-hearted and sunny morning out in the woods. 
As we were walking my colleague pointed out different types of trees and bushes and flowers along the trail, providing whatever information he knew (and making up the rest I'm sure).
At some time during our hike (and in his smart-alec informative way) he pointed out the "naturally occurring" beer bottles thrown into the bushes just off the trail.
Once he said that we all took turns pointing out the naturally occurring trash we came across (the naturally occurring Styrofoam cooler, the naturally occurring garbage bag etc.)
I was considering turning back and heading out of the box canyon when I looked up and saw something to the left of a tree on the side of a bluff.
Curious to see what it was, and knowing that it was not "naturally occurring" I climbed part way up a hill to get a closer look at it.
As I approached I realized that it was yet one more target that had been set up for shooting practice.
LC and I still to this day joke when we come across "natural-occurring" objects out on trails..........
Curiosity satisfied I stood on the hillside, looked up the hill and then looked further to other hills behind that one, and instantly realized how I was going to spend the rest of my time on BLM land that day.
The area was vast, there was no-one else up there (or anywhere else for miles) that I could see and my bike would be fine.
I happily climbed the first hill and looked back over the area behind me.
I had made the right decision, and all of a sudden felt compelled only to keep climbing.
To climb as high as I could climb.............
The first real flowers I have seen since arriving in Wyoming.
Small, delicate, beautiful spring flowers found among the rocks and gravel on the side of the hill...........
By the time I came across this target I finally realized that they were set up throughout the hills of this area, all of them eventually leading up and down the same canyon I had inadvertently found.........
Heading up one more hill..........
And then another.
One rise after another.......
Yellow and blue and orange fungi growing on rocks throughout the hillsides and becoming more colorful the higher I climbed...........
The wind was beginning to pick up.
I could see snow capped mountains in all directions - a 360 degree canvas of western beauty.
So beautiful I can't describe it.
So big my camera can't capture it..............
I climbed over the last rise and finally had some answers to my questions.
What was up in the hills..........
What was up over the hills..........
Whether or not I really could see forever.........
At the top of the last ridge I turned right and continued along the trail, curious where it led and what I would find.........
After returning to my starting point I looked at the trail going in the opposite direction.
I had been on top of the ridge for a long time in very strong (but not very cold) winds looking at everything there was to look at.
Yes it was a clear day and I could know the rest.
I debated whether or not to climb this one last climb.
It was the highest point I could reach in this portion of BLM land and I considered it briefly.
And then smiled to myself and decided that I would wait for the one last climb until LC was with me.
I wanted to be at that highest point with him.
We made it together this afternoon (a blog for another day).
But a few days ago I turned back happy with my adventure and began to head back down the steep hills - slowly and steadily making my way back to my bike..........
I was not exactly repeating my route back down.
Every time I saw something interesting to look at or photograph I veered a little.
Just a little.
But knowing this (and as I continued my descent hopeful that I would easily find my bike again) I wandered among large boulders and suddenly thought of that amusing Subaru commercial.
The one where the couple are searching for their Subaru in big boulder country, and when the guy hits the remote door lock the sound bounces among the rocks making it impossible to pin-point exactly where their vehicle is........
A deer leg found on the side of the hill close to where I dropped the bike............
Still where I left it..............
As I was grinding up the long incline a couple of hours before I remember thinking that at least it would all be downhill on the way back.
I coasted almost the entire way back down, in a fast and bumpy and exhilarating ride.
But not long before the end of the trail I looked to my right and saw a herd of antelope running full speed through the field.
I have no idea why they were in such a rush for the second time that day, but again I could see that they would pass directly in front of me across the trail.
Again I stopped the bike, put a foot down for balance and scrambled to dig my camera out of my jacket pocket.
They were moving so fast that they had already crossed the trail before I had the camera in my hand.
I did not even see them in my view finder.  Rather I simply pointed the camera in their direction and snapped pictures before they disappeared, hoping that I might capture them on film.
I took five pictures and this is the only one that captured the antelope.
I was pleased to have even the one picture..........
Horses grazing in a pasture a couple of farms down from where we live...........
One last picture of Heart Mountain, taken from my elevated vantage point high in the hills of BLM land the other day.
I do not know how high up I was.  
Cody is at about 5,088 feet.  
I would guess I was at about 6500 feet.
More wonderful of a day than I ever hoped for...........

1 comment:

  1. Really nice vistas!

    Antelope are interesting creatures. Very odd looking and fast.